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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Jess Weixler in “Teeth,” Roadside Attractions, 2008]

“Vagina dentata” is Latin for “toothed vagina” and it’s a longstanding myth borne of the eternal fear of men everywhere about what lurks within the holiest of holies. This man had never heard of it before seeing the new film “Teeth,” which deposits the idea into a horror comedy about a teenage girl who discovers that her newfound sexuality has a, ahem, biting sense of humor. Maybe I’m too psychosexually well-adjusted. Maybe I’m just not that well versed in classical myths.

So I wasn’t too familiar, but all the guys in “Teeth” are. These men — rapists, molesters, abusers, perverts or amoral scumbags all — live in a perpetual state of feminine fear. At one point, a man learns not to screw with Dawn (Jess Weixler) the hard way and he shrieks “IT’S TRUE! VAGINA DENTATA!” Quite an astute observation for a man who just had the tips of his fingers forcibly circumcised, no?

As a child, Dawn accidentally does the same to her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley), and when we rejoin them as teenagers, the incident has wreaked havoc on each other’s subconscious. As Dawn has become a major player in a local church group devoted to abstinence, when it’s time for Brad to have sex, he refuses any option but anal. Dawn — whose unique anatomy is probably the result of a genetic mutation sparked by the pollution from the ominous nuclear power plant that looms over her family’s house — falls for Tobey (Hale Appleman), another boy in her chastity circle, and finds herself questioning her beliefs about premarital sex for the first time. Tobey initially appears wholesome, but he turns out to be a predator instead, and an encounter between the two at an idyllic swimming hole turns from consensual making out to nonconsensual rape. That’s when the metaphorical claws come out.

Most of the movie continues on like that. All the men in Dawn’s life, except her stepfather, who’s actually kind, and her obvious jerk of a stepbrother, seem innocent until she lets them get close and they subsequently turn into slobbering, ravenous sex beasts. There is no complexity to any of these antagonists, nor to the choices Dawn has to make. The jokes aren’t particularly funny and the scares aren’t particularly scary. Maybe there’s no other way to make a movie about a woman with a toothed vagina, though I’d like to think there is.

“Teeth” is directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of famed pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and interestingly, the film’s best gag is a piece of clever graphic design. The local school board has forbidden Dawn’s school from teaching female anatomy and covered up the “offending” parts of her textbook with a larger gold sticker with a scalloped edge (the corresponding male passages have been deemed acceptable and left visible). When Dawn and her classmates attempt to peel off the sticker it rips and tears the page to the point of illegibility. It’s an appropriate emblem of women’s second-class status in society, but the rest of the movie lacks that scene’s ingenuity. “Teeth” has a good premise, a talented cast of young actors, a lot of obvious jokes and tiresomely “shocking” gore shots. It feels like a missed opportunity. I’d like to call a mulligan on the whole movie. Can we just throw the whole thing out and start again from the beginning?

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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